Published on: March 15, 2024

The President urged and underscores the importance of effectively utilizing the funds allocated by the government for meaningful development initiatives to benefit both the public and the nation

  • LKR 183 billion earmarked for ‘Aswesuma’.
  • LKR 02 billion allocated for the distribution of ‘Urumaya’ freehold deeds.
  • LKR 11,250 million designated for decentralized budget programs.
  • LKR 10 billion allocated to the “Kandukara Dashakaya” initiative.
  • LKR 2,500 million set aside for Agricultural Modernization programs.
  • Implementation of a modern agricultural economy in every Divisional Secretariat.
  • Strategies to enhance women’s representation in every workforce – The President at the District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries meeting.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged all local government officials to wholeheartedly commit themselves to ensuring that the benefits provided to the people through government funding for development activities are effectively utilized. By responsibly managing these resources, officials can contribute significantly to bolstering the national economy.

The President further requested active participation from all local government officials in supporting the success of programs such as “Aswesuma,” “Urumaya,” and Agricultural Modernization initiatives, alongside the “Kadurarata Dashakaya” program. He emphasized that the collective benefits derived from these endeavours will significantly contribute to the enhancement of the national economy.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe conveyed these directives during a discussion held this morning (15) at the Foundation Institute, Colombo with all District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries, focusing on the progress of government-implemented development programs.

During this meeting, which was organized under the theme “Precursor to a strong future – 2024,” extensive discussions were held regarding the development programs initiated by the government, as well as the challenges encountered during their implementation.

Under the “Aswesuma” program, benefits will be extended to 2 million families initially, with plans to increase this number to 2.4 million. An allocation of LKR 183 billion has been earmarked for this initiative.

Furthermore, 02 million families are set to receive freehold land deeds through the “Urumaya” program, with a budget allocation of LKR 02 billion.

The decentralized budget program across all 25 districts is allocated LKR 11,250 million to ensure effective implementation.

For the “Kandurata Dashakaya” program spanning 11 districts, 93 divisional secretariat divisions, and 4,401 Grama Niladhari divisions, a budget of LKR 10 billion has been allocated.

In addition, LKR 2,500 million has been designated for the initial phase of the Agricultural Modernization program, covering 26 divisional secretariats, with plans for the second phase to encompass 75 divisional secretariats.

The President also underscored the significance of allocating these funds carefully to attain the targeted development objectives.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe additionally highlighted the intention to establish a Modern Agricultural Economy in every Divisional Secretariat, emphasizing the importance of enhancing women’s participation in the workforce.

The full speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe is as follows:

“In the aftermath of our nation’s economic downturn, we anticipate resurgence in economic growth in the year 2024. The year 2019 witnessed a deceleration in economic growth following the tragic events of the Easter Sunday bombings. Subsequently, the Covid-19 pandemic further exacerbated the situation, resulting in a precipitous decline in economic growth by the year 2022.

Following this, we anticipate achieving a 2% economic growth in the year 2024. Despite this, it may take approximately two to three years to return to the economic conditions of 2019. Nevertheless, my objective is to achieve this goal by 2027, if not sooner.

Upon assuming office in 2022, I was confronted with a nation whose economy had reached a state of collapse. My primary focus at that time was to ensure the success of the ‘Yala’ season. Despite the financial constraints we faced, concerted efforts were made to ensure the season’s prosperity.

America provided us with 36,000 metric tons of fertilizer through the World Food Organization, while India supplied 40,000 metric tons of urea. Additionally, we received 135,000 metric tons of fertilizer from the World Bank. These contributions significantly contributed to our success in both the ‘Yala and Maha’ seasons.

Now, it’s time to progress further. Our objective is to reduce the number of low-income earners in the country over the next 10-15 years. However, we have also taken immediate steps to provide relief to those in need. Consequently, we have augmented the amount of financial aid provided through ‘Aswesuma’ and expanded the number of beneficiaries. While this program may encounter some challenges, we are committed to addressing any shortcomings and moving forward with adjustments this year.

All the financial support provided to low-income individuals circulates back into the country’s economy as they spend it on essential goods and services. Consequently, this year, the infusion of these funds will bolster the nation’s economy. Furthermore, as a result of the government’s wage increase, has triggered wage hikes not only in the public sector but also in the private sector and even in plantation industries. This broadening of wage increases across various sectors contributes positively to the economy, enhancing overall economic stability and growth.

Furthermore, the implementation of the decentralized budget was stalled last season, leading to financial losses for contractors and suppliers. However, this year, these funds will flow back into the economy, revitalizing economic activity. Additionally, the initiation of ‘Kandurata Dashakaya’ program aims to address the lack of development in upcountry regions. Adequate funding has been allocated for this purpose, and when expended, it will further stimulate the country’s economy.

Hence, I urge for the careful utilization of all government funds, ensuring they are directed towards relevant areas. By doing so, we can ensure that these funds contribute to the growth of our nation’s economy.

Additionally, the implementation of the “Urumaya” program, which grants freehold land deeds to the people, addresses a longstanding issue faced by our citizens. In the initial phase, preparations for providing land deeds to 01 million individuals have been completed. Where challenges arise, efforts are underway to resolve them and proceed with the implementation of the program. Furthermore, measures have been initiated to grant ownership of residential flats to their occupants, further promoting stability and empowerment within our communities.

We find ourselves at a critical juncture in our economic trajectory, and it’s evident that we cannot sustain the current economic framework. The government is diligently working towards liberating our nation from the brink of bankruptcy. Efforts are underway to negotiate a grace period for our outstanding debts. It’s crucial to acknowledge that our imports surpass our exports, necessitating annual borrowing to bridge this gap. Hence, we must operate under a structured plan.

The repercussions of the last economic crisis were felt by all, and should we revert to a similar state, the commitments we’ve made will yield no results. Therefore, it’s imperative for each of us to pledge our dedication towards fortifying the country’s economy.

We have initiated a program centred around revitalizing the tourism sector, with the anticipation of welcoming a substantial influx of tourists by December. Given the challenges facing the Western economy, reliance on the garment industry may not be feasible.

In light of this, it is imperative to shift our focus towards agriculture. Our nation has a rich agricultural heritage, dating back from the time of the Sinhalese kings to the conclusion of British rule. During this period, our agricultural export industry thrived. It is essential that we strive to reclaim this prominent position in agriculture once again.

We are fully committed to the modernization of agriculture, a vital step in our nation’s economic development. To this end, we have identified 26 Divisional secretariats where Agrarian Service centres will be transformed into Agriculture Modernization Offices. This consolidation will streamline agricultural operations and foster efficiency. Furthermore, we have undertaken measures to centralize all agricultural sectors under a single ministry, facilitating cohesive planning and implementation strategies. Additionally, efforts are underway to enhance yields in paddy cultivation, and initiatives have been launched for the cultivation of new crops and the expansion of cinnamon cultivation.

Looking ahead, our vision is to extend the agricultural modernization program to encompass all areas. Out of the 341 divisional secretariats in Sri Lanka, we aim to identify those from which we can generate foreign exchange. This strategic approach will guide our efforts to establish a modern agricultural economy in each divisional secretariat, thereby promoting sustainable growth and prosperity across the nation.

Additionally, we are moving forward with formalizing vocational training by consolidating all vocational training centers into vocational colleges. This strategic approach aims to streamline vocational education and ensure comprehensive skill development among our workforce.
Primarily, our focus remains on advancing tourism and agricultural development programs. Following the debt restructuring program, our next step involves creating new investment zones by attracting foreign investments.

To achieve this, we have identified several key areas such as Trincomalee, Hambantota, Ingiriya, Kandy, and Jaffna. Efforts are underway to promote tourism in the southern and eastern provinces, as well as in upcountry regions.

Furthermore, our objective is to transition towards a digital and green economy. Through these endeavours, we aim to lay the foundation for a new economy characterized by sustainability and innovation.

Moreover, we have enacted new legislation to empower women and promote gender equality. Efforts are underway to safeguard women’s rights and enhance their participation in the workforce.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for the unwavering support you have all provided during the challenging programs implemented over the past two years. I urge all of us to continue moving forward vigorously in advancing these initiatives for the betterment of our people. Together, we can forge a brighter future for our nation”.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena :

We have a group of experienced government officials in this position. It’s important to recognize that President Ranil Wickremesinghe leads a team dedicated to consistently implementing the government’s decisions and plans. Under the President’s effective leadership, the country has made significant strides forward, and as government officials, you can take pride in the stability we have achieved.

Today, we are witnessing a substantial influx of foreign tourists, a testament to their faith in our country. We call upon you to lend your assistance in addressing the challenges faced by our villages. Additionally, you are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring governance that is non-violent and conducive to the well-being of all citizens. Your dedication and contributions are invaluable in guiding our nation towards progress and prosperity.

In the midst of the 1971 rebellion, divisional secretaries were forced to flee. Today, as a government, we aspire to address the challenges you encounter methodically. You wield considerable authority within the government framework. I urge each of you to exhibit strength and determination in earnestly implementing government policies and fostering the country’s development.

State Minister for Home Affairs Ashoka Priyantha expressed gratitude to President Ranil Wickremesinghe for facilitating a meeting with all government officials. This marks the first-ever convening of such a meeting, underscoring its significance. Recognizing the numerous challenges faced by the country previously, he appealed for support in advancing the government’s development agenda to overcome these hurdles.

Let’s not forget the challenges we faced during the past crisis. Your dedicated service day and night in meeting the people’s needs was invaluable. We now need your support to complete the ‘Aswesuma’ program successfully. The President raised public servants’ salaries in the last budget. The Urumaya program aims to grant land rights to the people.

Equal distribution of privileges should be ensured for all citizens across the island. Honours and awards should be earned through honest public service. During the struggle against the previous government, responses were provided to inquiries not only at the President’s residence but also at the residences of ministers.

All citizens of the island should receive equal privileges. To earn awards and honors, one must engage in honest public service. During the struggle against the previous government, not only the President’s residence but also the houses of ministers were set on fire, and tragically, a Member of Parliament was killed.

In such a situation, if the President fails to take charge of the country and protect the parliament from the protesters of the ‘Aragalaya’, it is inevitable that the residences of government officials will be targeted and set on fire.

Below are the responses provided for the questions raised here.

Q:
Some individuals did not register for “Aswesuma” during the first phase, and they have not had an opportunity to apply in the second phase. What actions should be taken to address this issue?

Chairman of ‘Aswesuma’ :
Those who missed the chance to apply in the initial phase were granted a second opportunity. Individuals who previously entered the data system were also afforded another chance. Furthermore, there is an option to revise previously submitted data. This process occurs subsequent to the selection of beneficiaries from the first group. Rest assured, there will be no issues.

State Minister for Home Affairs Ashoka Priyantha:
The chairman should ensure adequate publicity for this matter, as it pertains to grassroots concerns. As you mentioned, it is not widely known that this program operates in two phases. There is a prevailing belief in society that rejected beneficiaries cannot reapply. Therefore, it is imperative to clarify that another opportunity will be provided.

Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Staff to the President, Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the President, Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the Prime Minister, Anura Dissanayake, Advisor to the President on Parliamentary Affairs, Ashu Marasinghe, Senior Advisor to the President on Economic Affairs, Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga, Senior Additional Secretary to the President (Agricultural Productivity and Lands), Chandra Herath, Additional Secretary to the President (Food Security and Infrastructure Development), Varnan Perera, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, Local Government, Pradeep Yasaratne, Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Stabilization and of National PolicyK. M. M. Siriwardena, Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation B. L. J. Dharmakeerthi, Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Lands, H. M. B. P. Herath, Secretary of the Ministry of Irrigation, Saman Darshana Padikorala, Commissioner General of Land , Bandula Jayasinghe, Surveyor General, W. Sudath Perera; Director-General of Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority, M. L. D. C. M. Abeygunawardena, Chairman of the Welfare Benefit Board Jayantha Wijeratne, District Secretaries, Divisional Secretaries and other government officials attended this event.

Mission

The Presidential Media Division is fully responsible for socializing the views, actions, decisions and statements of His Excellency the President through the media. Electronic, print and new media will contribute to this through a credible and engaging approach.

The media department works as a source of information on the subject of the President’s vision and mission by maintaining good coordination with public and private media organizations and journalists.

National policies, plans and measures are explained to the people through the use of high quality media. Identify the fallacies and reveal the truth.